Len McCluskey of Unite called for more power for trade unions as he attacked the Tories’ record on prosecuting firms that avoid paying the minimum wage, in the wake of enforcement reforms from the governing party.
Speaking on Tuesday after the Conservatives detailed their plans, the head of Britain’s largest trade union questioned whether the self-declared “party of working people” truly had the plebs’ best interests at heart, claiming there is “no substitute for strong unions at work”:
“Given the record of the Tory party on worker protection it will take some leap of faith to believe that they are now converted to the cause.
“Ministers themselves admit workers rarely secure the full return of the wages swindled out of them by an employer, and under this government exploited workers have been priced out of pursuing justice through industrial tribunal.”
On the same day the Tories announced plans to double penalties for those flouting minimum wage laws, increase the enforcement budget, set up a prosecution unit in tax authority HMRC, and disqualify wage cheats from directing companies for up to 15 years.
Though the business secretary Sajid Javid claimed the “one nation” Tories were “committed to making work pay and making sure hardworking people get the salary they are entitled to”, in July 2013 his party introduced employment tribunal fees for aggrieved workers and claims have since dropped.
Unrestrained by the Liberal Democrats, Javid and his ilk are also attacking union rights through the Trade Union Bill, which seeks to undermine unions’ ability to strike and potentially restrict Labour’s access to them as a source of funding.
“Trade unions are the frontline response to workplace injustice,” McCluskey said. “The truth is, when the government brings forward its bill to bring ruin to unions they will give rogue employers the upper hand.
“Instead of making it a mission to destroy unions, the government would be better occupied talking to us on solutions to the problems of Britain’s workplaces.”
Early this summer Unite backed hard leftist Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election, one of the moves that has led the North Islington MP to become the expected winner of the contest.
Image Credit – Transport House, Belfast in May 2015 by William Murphy